Pope Francis addressed the civil society of Ecuador this evening with the closeness and spontaneity of a family member, saying that since the mayor had given him the keys of the city of Quito, he felt that he was “at home.”
He then went on to speak of three social values or principles, saying that they must be taught at home: gratuitousness (you have received freely; you must give freely), solidarity and subsidiarity.
The Pope’s remarks came following greetings from three Ecuadorian leaders and a performance by a choir for people with Down syndrome or disabilities. One of those who greeted the Pope was an 85-year-old woman who explained that she had been working as a catechist for 60 years.
Francis began his address lightheartedly asking pardon for not facing the audience fully, since the light for the podium came from the side and he said he needed light because, “I don’t see well.”
In his address, he encouraged his listeners to extend the care given to family to the whole of society.
“Our society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home. In a family, parents, grandparents and children feel at home; no one is excluded. If someone has a problem, even a serious one, even if he brought it upon himself, the rest of the family comes to his assistance; they support him. His problems are theirs. Should it not be the same in society?”
In this context, the Pope departed from his prepared text to say that an image came to his mind, scenes he had seen in Buenos Aires, of women forming long lines to see their sons or husbands in prison. Though these men had “behaved badly,” he said, “they were still part of the home,” the Holy Father reflected, saying that these women teach a great lesson.
“If only we could view our political opponents or neighbors in the same way we view our children or our spouse, mother or father! Do we love our society? Do we love our country, the community which we are trying to build? Do we love it in the abstract, in theory? Let us love it by our actions more than by our words! In every person, in concrete situations, in our life together, love always leads to communication, never to isolation,” he said.
The Pope then spoke about the first of the three values: gratuitousness.
“Parents know that all their children are equally loved, even though each has his or her own character. But when children refuse to share what they have freely received, this relationship breaks down. The love of their parents helps children to overcome their selfishness, to learn to live with others, to yield and be patient,” he said.
Again departing from his text, he recounted how he likes to ask children a question: if you have two candies, and a friend arrives, what do you do? He said that generally the answer is that they would give one to the friend. But if the question is that you have one candy and a friend arrives, then the answers range from giving it to the friend, splitting it, or hiding it in a pocket.
“In the wider life of society we come to see that ‘gratuitousness’ is not something extra, but rather a necessary condition of justice,” he emphasized, repeating the words. “Who we are, and what we have, has been given to us so that we can place it at the service of others.”
Speaking concretely about the need to protect the Amazon, the Pontiff referenced Laudato Si’, exhorting Ecuador to take a leading role: “Ecuador – together with other countries bordering the Amazon – has an opportunity to become a teacher of integral ecology. We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!”
Responsible one for another
Moving to the principle of solidarity, Francis said, “Out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society, which does not only consist in giving to those in need, but in feeling responsible for one another.”
In speaking about solidarity, the Pope again departed from his prepared text to speak about the problem of unemployment among young people. Referring to two groups of people discarded by society — the unborn and the elderly — he proposed, as he has on other occasions, that lack of work for youth is also a form of injustice that must be rectified.
“Hoping in a better future calls for offering real opportunities to people, especially young people, creating employment, and ensuring an economic growth which is shared by all (rather than simply existing on paper, in macroeconomic statistics), and promoting a sustainable development capable of generating a solid and cohesive social fabric,” he said.
Finally, in speaking about subsidiarity, the Pope said that every one has to be free and the goodness inherent in others must be recognized.
“Individuals and groups have the right to go their own way, even though they may sometimes make mistakes,” he noted.
“Dialogue is needed and is fundamental for arriving at the truth, which cannot be imposed, but sought with a sincere and critical spirit,” the Pope added. “In a participatory democracy, each social group, indigenous peoples, Afro-Ecuadorians, women, civic associations and those engaged in public service are all indispensable participants in this dialogue.”
The Holy Father said that the site of his visit was an image of this dialogue.
“The walls, patios and cloisters of this city eloquently make this point,” he said, “Rooted in elements of Incan and Caranqui culture, beautiful in their proportions and shapes, boldly and strikingly combining different styles, the works of art produced by the ‘Quito school’ sum up that great dialogue, with its successes and failures, which is Ecuador’s history. Today we see how beautiful it is. If the past was marked by errors and abuses – how can we deny it! – we can say that the amalgamation which resulted radiates such exuberance that we can look to the future with great hope.”
The Pope concluded the day with a private visit to the Church of St. Ignatius, just a few-minutes drive from the Church of St. Francis where he gave his address. He spent some 25 minutes in prayer at the church. On Wednesday, he will visit a home for the elderly run by the Missionaries of Charity, and then meet with clergy and religious, before departing for Bolivia at noon.
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